I am a natural contemplative. I like to say that I am a contemplative stuck in the world. My heart naturally inclines itself towards constantly gazing towards what God might be saying or doing in everything, so I have always loved the thought of using moments to discern.
I want to say that although you may have felt the responsibility to use Covid-19 as a time of discernment, it’s okay if this season as not brought huge revelation to you. It’s okay if this season has been one in which you have felt stuck or struggled to see the big plan that God wants to bring forth through this.
In 1 Kings 19:11-13 we read how God told Elijah to listen for Him but He wasn’t in the wind, or the earthquake or the fire. He came in the gentle whisper. That perhaps although we can and have seen God move in this season, for us as we seek what is next, God will speak in the whisper.
We just need to be intentional about it and be aware of where we are.
I think it is helpful to consider the journey of discernment in four phases: To pray, seek counsel, have patience and to do. These are not linear. It’s a continuous journey. St Ignatius of Loyola said that “It’s not so much a process of discernment… be a person of discernment”. That can be a posture we always adopt in ministry and in life.
The first step is to pray.
Prayer helps us to listen as we discern. One thing that helped me when I was discerning a big life change was acknowledging that unlike a decision, which can likely be between a good choice and a bad choice, discernment is usually choosing between two goods. When we adopt prayer as a continuous posture of discernment, we come to a point where we say, “My desire is His desire”.
A few years ago, I was leading the youth ministry at my church and I suddenly started to feel that I was being called away to something else. It was a real conflicting time as I wrestled through why I would feel called away from that, until I was speaking to a friend of mine and sharing this experience, and he said something that really altered that season for me. He said, remember God doesn’t call you away, he calls you towards something. I began to look to God and what He might be calling me towards.
It’s necessary in this season to seek counsel. As you look at what your ministry looked like a few months ago and look towards how to serve through this season. Seek counsel from others who are serving in this time. How are they doing it? What mistakes have they been making? What are the successes?
The other day I was feeling really exhausted and over the fact that each day was the same. Wake up, go sit at my desk, work, and then shut my laptop off. Yes, the work I do is exciting, but the routine has been the same. With no break to go out and enjoy the outdoors. I like all of us, have adopted a certain patience.
And as you wait through this season, look for how God is calling you to live anew. Where can you serve?
I moved to Cape Town last year and came back to Durban for lockdown. Because I was here, the youth minister at the church where I used to lead asked me to help out at our youth group virtually. Serving those teens in this season has been such a gift to me. But more than that I have been able to walk alongside a new youth leadership team and the youth minister. The Lord has shown me new ways to serve. Last night I was called by a teen I used to lead, asking me to help her start a small group for her university friends who are now all spread out across the country again.
The Lord has shown me a new way to serve.
I was recently talking to our youth leaders about this season and I reminded them that the mission remains the same, our goal was to lead teens closer to Christ. We can still do it, as Christ did to the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). By speaking truth in this season, reminding them of what is in the scriptures, telling them of all that the Lord has done and will continue to do in this season. Reminding them that God still finds them here, during this storm, long before He calms it. So, they too might say, “wasn’t it like a fire burning within us as He shared the scriptures?” (Luke 24:32).
I once heard a bishop talk about discernment and he mentioned how we can become comfortable with indecision and that sometimes you just need to make a decision. My final step in discernment is to go for it/jump/leap – whatever word resonates with your heart.
As you draw close and lean into God, as you decipher what you could be changing in your ministry, go for it in this season. This time of change is a time for innovation, and creativity. Some things may work, some may not, but when we are people of discernment, we can always self-correct either through praying, seeking counsel, having patience and seeing it through, or acting in a new way.
As you journey, seeking to be a person of discernment, reflect on these questions:
- Where are you in those phases?
- What has God placed in front of you?
- What would move you to the next step?
- How can you be a person of discernment?
No matter what, we see in Job 37:5 that “At God’s command amazing things happen, wonderful things that we can’t understand.” Amazing things can happen in this season. The Lord is good and may He find us grateful in this season.